Pleading Guilty: Criminal Charges in Volkswagen Scandal Begin

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Here’s a charge most people hope they never have to face in federal court: Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

The first Volkswagen engineer to be formally charged entered a guilty plea Friday for his role in the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal. His plea has uncovered new information regarding ten years of deceit and coverups by the German automaker.

We now know that, since the very beginning of Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” program, the company intentionally developed and installed a “defeat device” on roughly 500,000 cars in the United States so that they could appear to pass U.S. emissions tests. We also know that engineers lied in attempts to cover up the existence of the device once U.S. investigators became suspicious.

The Detroit News covered the story well and said,

The details were made public as James Robert Liang, leader of diesel competence for VW from 2008 through June, appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit. He entered a guilty plea to a grand jury indictment of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

It marks the first criminal charge in the year-long scandal at the German automaker and could indicate more charges against VW officials are coming in the Department of Justice investigation into the company.

Part of Liang’s plea deal includes a lighter sentence in exchange for a “road map” of who was involved in the scandal, which is a sure sign that more indictments and more criminal charges lie ahead for employees, and former employees, of the disgraced automaker.

That fact that we’re even talking about serious criminal activity involving one of the world’s biggest automakers is shocking and should make car buyers question whether or not VW is a company worthy of their hard-earned money.

The deceit becomes more scandalous with every passing day. In the coming weeks and months we should know exactly who was involved, what the consequences might be, and how the automaker will plan to move forward.

Volkswagen itself will likely be off the hook after paying billions of dollars in fines, but we have to wonder:

Should Volkswagen be allowed to continue selling cars in the U.S. considering the depth of its diesel scandal?

-tgriffith

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